Photo Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom is Urging Tunisian Jews to leave while they can.

Back in December, Tunisia-born Vice Prime Minister of Israel Silvan Shalom called on the Jews still living in Tunisia to immigrate to Israel. That call was rejected with much derision by the remnants of Tunisia’s once thriving Jewish community.

But with new legislation being proposed in the Islamist Ennahda led government, Tunisian Jews may need to rethink their loyalty to a country that no longer wants them.

Advertisement

The Tunisian Parliament is working to pass a law that will prohibit the import of religious books, kosher food, and even visitors from Israel.

The Jews of Tunisia are working to reach a compromise with the government to prevent the parliament from passing the law in a few months time.

In an interview with Makor Rishon, Rav Haim Biton, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Tunisia said, “Today, the government lets us bring in food, medicine, religious and educational books from Israel. If this law passes, our condition will completely change.”

He continued on to say that they are trying to explain to the government that if the law passes, in a few months from now, their relatives from Israel won’t be able to visit, they will not have much needed kosher food items, and, of course, they won’t be able to bring in religious and educational materials.

Other community members were less optimistic as they believe this is the government trying to cut off Jews from their culture. “Behind this law to prohibit the import of kosher products and visiting relatives is their desire to cut off our connection to Israel,” they said.

In November, Tunisia passed a separate law limiting NGOs to importing medicine only from foreign sources in with diplomatic ties with Tunisia, which, obviously, excluded Israel.

Despite the fact that the new proposed law hasn’t yet been passed, Israeli citizens who have requested permission to visit Tunisia recently have been repeatedly turned down, while eight months ago, they could visit.

Tunisia’s Jewish community is divided over the best way to fight the proposed legislation: quietly and behind the scenes, or with public petitions.

The opposition to the petition proposal sees no chance the law will pass, with less than two months before the end of the term of the interim government. They prefer to keep a low profile and to avoid conflicts with the new government.

Tunisia is set to hold elections on October 23rd, assuming they don’t delay them again as they did in July. If this law passes, it will be a clear failure of Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and its ability to protect the basic rights of its minority citizens.

At its peak Tunisia had 110,000 Jews. Fewer than 2000 Jews remain today in one of the Diaspora’s oldest Jewish communities, which some sources say was first settled by Jews around the time the First Temple was destroyed.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Levites living in Djerba, Tunisia, didn’t listen to Ezra the Scribe’s call to return to Israel. Maybe this time Tunisia’s Jews should listen to Silvan Shalom.

Advertisement

19 COMMENTS

  1. Uhm, dear Stephen, we are not going to have elections, no. The speaker of the interim-parliament has declared previously in the press that the new constitution might be ready by October 23rd (i.e. this will might be passed by then) but then isn't likely to happen. Such law will not pass as Tunisia will always be concerned to polish its image and avoid criticism especially from you guys? Anyways, if the parliament decides to ban these things, I'm sure the Jews can always sue them and win. This law is discriminatory against some citizens. It will not be passed.

  2. I read that on the the Gatestone Institute's website some 10 days ago. Well, this happened. This has been going on for more than a year now. I, frankly, don't know why it still keeps happening with no public consequences taken til now. I can tell you though that Salafis (the hardcore Islamists) are the number one target of the current regime right now. They get arrested all the time. However, incidence like this keep happening and no one takes charge, and I can't say anything about this regard. All, I can say is that is isn't definitely the first piece of media that I see about insignificant, moot silliness that is going on right now in the Arab world. The law won't pass. I mean we don't even have any relations whatsoever with Israel. What are trying to do now. We can debate this if you're interested in that.

  3. How about you take advantage from the pro-democracy movements in these countries and actually try to make a change? Try to make a voice? an advocacy group? Make the world hear about it? Or let people know why it is wrong? Educate the people? Maybe you'd wanna help people widen their perspectives and stop it with their government crap that they have been ingurgitate.

  4. Tunisia looks to me like it can go either way. But, unlike Egypt, it actually has a real chance to not turn Islamic.

    (My in-laws are all from D'jerba. Some of them even visited their home town around 2 years ago. But apparently they can't do that anymore).

  5. the Tunisian jews are in there homes they will not need your invitation you guys are pathetic to compare a peaceful Djerba to a stolen land .Jews are welcome but Zionist can stay the hell out of Tunis . if you are in isreal you are a zionist not a jew

Comments are closed.

Loading Facebook Comments ...